Death Metal Music Inspires Joy Not Violence, Study Finds
An anonymous reader quotes a report from the BBC:
I've had one desire since I was born; to see my body ripped and torn. The lyrics of death metal band Bloodbath's cannibalism-themed track, Eaten, do not leave much to the imagination. But neither this song -- nor the gruesome lyrics of others of the genre -- inspire violence. That is the conclusion of Macquarie University's music lab, which used the track in a psychological test. It revealed that death metal fans are not "desensitized" to violent imagery. The findings are published in the Royal Society journal Open Science. How do scientists test people's sensitivity to violence? With a classic psychological experiment that probes people's subconscious responses; and by recruiting death metal fans to take part. The test involved asking 32 fans and 48 non-fans listen to death metal or to pop whilst looking at some pretty unpleasant images.
Lead researcher Yanan Sun explained that the aim of the experiment was to measure how much participants' brains noticed violent scenes, and to compare how their sensitivity was affected by the musical accompaniment. To test the impact of different types of music, they also used a track they deemed to be the opposite of Eaten. "We used 'Happy' by Pharrell Williams as a [comparison]," said Dr Sun. Each participant was played Happy or Eaten through headphones, while they were shown a pair of images -- one to each eye. One image showed a violent scene, such as someone being attacked in a street. The other showed something innocuous -- a group of people walking down that same street, for example. "If fans of violent music were desensitized to violence, which is what a lot of parent groups, religious groups and censorship boards are worried about, then they wouldn't show this same bias. "But the fans showed the very same bias towards processing these violent images as those who were not fans of this music."
New Mexico the Most Coal-Heavy State To Pledge 100 Percent Carbon-Free Energy By 2045
New Mexico's state House of Representatives passed the "
Energy Transition Act" on Tuesday, where it's expected to be signed quickly by Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham. The bill "
commits the state to getting 100 percent of its energy from carbon-free sources by 2045," reports Ars Technica. From the report:
The bill includes interim goals mandating that 50 percent of the state's energy mix be renewable by 2030 and 80 percent of the energy mix be renewable by 2040. The state currently buys no nuclear power, which is not renewable but qualifies as a zero-carbon energy source. The bill passed yesterday does not require that 100 percent of the state's energy be renewable by 2045; it just specifies that no electricity come from a carbon-emitting source.
New Mexico is unique among these states because it is a relatively coal-heavy state, generating 1.5 gigawatts of coal-fired electricity as of November 2018. Last month, the state's Public Service Company of New Mexico had slated its 847MW San Juan coal plant for shut down by 2022, but a New York hedge fund called Acme Equities swooped in with an offer to buy the 46-year-old plant. According to Power Magazine, Acme intends to retrofit the plant with carbon capture and sequestration technology. If the deal goes through, Acme would use the captured carbon in enhanced oil recovery, where carbon is forced into older or weak oil wells to improve the pressure of the well and extract more oil. But with the passage of this bill, Acme's offer may not stand. New Mexico In Depth writes that the bill puts "$30 million toward the clean-up of the [San Juan] coal-fired power plant and the mine that supplies it and $40 million toward economic diversification efforts in that corner of the state and support for affected power plant employees and miners."
Boeing 737 Max Jets Grounded By FAA Emergency Order
announced an emergency order from the Federal Aviation Administration on Wednesday grounding Boeing 737 Max jets in the wake of an
Ethiopian Airlines crash Sunday and a Lion Air accident in October that together killed 346 people. The emergency order comes two days after the FAA said the Boeing 737 Max planes
are still airworthy. NBC News reports:
Trump's announcement came as the FAA faced mounting pressure from aviation advocates and others to ban flights of the planes pending the completion of investigations into the deadly accidents. Sunday's crash killed 157 people and the one in Indonesia in October left 189 dead. "We're going to be issuing an emergency order of prohibition to ground all flights of the 737 Max 8 and the 737 Max 9 and planes associated with that line," Trump announced, referring to "new information and physical evidence that we've received" in addition to some complaints.
The FAA said it decided to ground the jets after it found that the Ethiopian Airlines aircraft that crashed had a flight pattern very similar to the Lion Air flight. "It became clear that the track of the Ethiopian flight behaved very similarly to the Lion Air flight," said Steven Gottlieb, deputy director of accident investigations for the FAA. United States airports and airlines reacted to the order Wednesday, acknowledging that it will lead to canceled flights. American has roughly 85 flights a day on the Boeing Max 8 and Max 9 jets. United Airlines has about 40 such flights. Southwest Airlines has the most, about 150 flights per day on these types of jets out of the airline's total of about 4,100 flights daily.
Amazon Lobbied More Government Entities Than Any Other Public US Company Last Year
lobbied more government entities last year than any other public U.S. company, covering issues like healthcare, transportation, defense, and labor regulation. "Across 2018, Amazon contacted 40 different federal entities on 21 different general issue areas," reports Fortune, citing
a report from Axios. "The only tech giant to lobby on more issues than Amazon was Google's Alphabet." From the report:
In terms of money spent, Amazon's $14.4 million is topped only by Alphabet's $21 million, says Bloomberg. While the tech industry overall spent less than half of the $280 million from pharmaceutical and healthcare products companies in Washington, Amazon has increased spending 460% since 2012, growing quickly within its trade. According to Axios, Amazon lobbied on self-driving car and drone issues, hinting at new methods of delivery. It supported a law allowing pharmacists to tell patients when using their insurance is actually more expensive, aiding Amazon's new investment in PillPack. It also covered the labeling of bioengineered food and a pilot program allowing online shoppers to use the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program -- signs of Amazon's emerging grocery business.
Two-Thirds of Android Antivirus Apps Are Total BS
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Tom's Guide:
Austrian antivirus-testing lab AV-Comparatives tested 250 antivirus apps in Google Play against 2,000 malware samples. They found that only 80 of the apps could stop even a minimal amount of malware. "Less than one in 10 of the apps tested defended against all 2,000 malicious apps, while over two-thirds failed to reach a block rate of even 30 percent," the lab said in a press release. To make sure you're protecting your Android device properly, stick to apps from well-known antivirus companies. Basically, AV-Comparatives said, most Android antivirus apps are phony, and many of them seemed to have been created only to display ads or promote a developer's career. "The main purpose of these apps seems to be generating easy revenue for their developers, rather than actually protecting their users," the AV-Comparatives report said.
Vizio Wants Next-Generation Smart TVs To Target Ads To Households
Smart TV manufacturer Vizio has formed a partnership with nine media and advertising companies to
develop an industry standard that will allow smart TVs to target advertisements to specific households, the companies said this week. From a report:
The consortium includes major TV networks like Comcast Corp's NBCUniversal and CBS, as well as advertising technology companies like AT&T's Xandr. Addressable advertising, or targeting viewers on the household level based on their interests, has long been the goal of TV marketers. But TVs lack cookies that internet browsers use to allow ads to follow people around the web. [...] The consortium of companies, dubbed Project OAR, or Open Addressable Ready, hopes to define the technical standards for TV programmers and platforms to deliver addressable advertising on smart TVs, which are WiFi-enabled TVs with apps for services like Netflix Inc and Hulu, by the end of this year, McAfee said.
Further reading: In January this year, Bill Baxter, chief technology officer of Vizio,
spoke about business of data collection in an interview. He said:
It's about post-purchase monetization of the TV. This is a cutthroat industry. It's a 6-percent margin industry, right? I mean, you know it's pretty ruthless. You could say it's self-inflicted, or you could say there's a greater strategy going on here, and there is. The greater strategy is I really don't need to make money off of the TV. I need to cover my cost. And then I need to make money off those TVs. They live in households for 6.9 years -- the average lifetime of a Vizio TV is 6.9 years. You would probably be amazed at the number of people come up to me saying, "I love Vizio TVs, I have one" and it's 11 years old. I'm like, "Dude, that's not even full HD, that's 720p." But they do last a long time and our strategy -- you've seen this with all of our software upgrades including AirPlay 2 and HomeKit -- is that we want to make things backward compatible to those TVs. So we're continuing to invest in those older TVs to bring them up to feature level comparison with the new TVs when there's no hardware limitation that would otherwise prevent that.
Google Builds Circuit to Solve One of Quantum Computing's Biggest Problems
Researchers at Google, the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, and the University of California Santa Barbara has solved one of the biggest limitations with quantum computing: all the control and readout circuits of quantum computer systems must be at room temperature, while their superconducting qubits live in a cryogenic enclosure at less than 1 kelvin. "For today's sub-100-qubit systems, there's enough space for specialized RF cabling to come in and out of the enclosure," reports IEEE Spectrum. "But to scale up to the million-qubit systems needed to do really cool stuff, there just won't be enough room."
IEEE International Solid-State Circuits Conference in San Francisco last month, the researchers
reported making a key control circuit in CMOS that will work at cryogenic temperatures. They described it as "a high-performance, low-power pulse modulator needed to program the qubits." From the report:
"The current approach is OK for now," says Joseph Bardin, a University of Massachusetts at Amherst associate professor of electrical and computer engineering who designed the IC while on sabbatical at Google. "But it's not scalable to a million qubits." For Google's 72-qubit quantum processor there are already 168 coaxial cables going into the refrigerator and connecting to the 10-millikelvin quantum processor. The pulse modulator IC Bardin worked on is used to encode quantum states on a qubit in order to execute a program. Quantum computers get their parallelizing power because qubits don't have to be just 0 or 1, like the bits in an ordinary computer. Instead, they can be a mix of those states. The pulse modulator uses a specific set of RF frequencies to produce that mix.
"The biggest challenge is heat dissipation," explains Bardin. The qubits are at 10 millikelvins, but the control circuits, which necessarily throw off heat, can't be held that low. The researchers aimed for 4 K for the control IC. "However, at 4 K, thermodynamics limits the efficiency of cooling. The best you're going to get is about 1 percent efficiency. In practice it's worse." So the power dissipated by the electronics per qubit had to be only in the milliwatt range. That power constraint had to be balanced with the need for control accuracy, Bardin says. This was complicated by how differently CMOS transistors behave at 4 k, which is a more than 200 degrees below what silicon foundries' simulation models can deal with. Bardin and the Google team managed to design the IC in a way that compensates for these problems and achieves the balance between power consumption and performance. The resulting IC consumed less than 2 mW, yet it was able to put a qubit through its paces in testing.
North Korea Advertises Military Hardware On Twitter and YouTube, Defying Sanctions
eatmorekix shares a report from Motherboard:
Glocom, a front company for the government of North Korea that sells sanctioned equipment, isn't giving up. In 2017, before YouTube quietly removed Glocom's channel, the company was advertising missile navigation and other military products on the video platform. But Glocom has returned. It setup a new channel, and also had a presence on Twitter, until Motherboard flagged Glocom's accounts to social media companies. The news not only signals the perseverance of parts of the North Korean's money-making enterprises, but also a slice of the content moderation issues that tech platforms constantly face. Glocom "is using them as platforms to market sanctions violating products," Shea Cotton, research associate at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies, and who has a particular focus on North Korea, told Motherboard in an email. A United Nations report
says that Glocom is run by North Korean intelligence agents, even though it pitches itself as a Malaysian company.
Cotton said "this company continues to operate openly. Most DPRK [Democratic Peoples' Republic of Korea] fronts, when exposed, usually fold or at the very least shut down and move their operations to another country and re-open under a new name. This one hasn't done that. We've seen them try to create this spin off brand called 'FACOM' and sell a few of their products under it but as you've seen their main brand is still thriving apparently."
Google Hardware Makes Cuts To Laptop and Tablet Development, Cancels Products
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica:
A report from Business Insider claims that Google has axed "dozens" of employees from its laptop and tablet division. BI's sources describe the move as "roadmap cutbacks" and also say that Google will likely "pare down the portfolio" in the future. Google's Hardware division is run by Rick Osterloh and is expected to launch a game streaming console later this month. The division is responsible for the Pixel phones, Google Home speakers, the Chromecast, Google Wi-Fi, and lately, the Nest smart home division.
You could also call the "laptop and tablet" division the "Chrome OS" division. Both the Pixelbook and Pixel Slate ran Chrome OS, and they are the company's only products supporting that operating system. Is Chrome OS going to be OK? BI notes that manufacturing roles in the hardware division haven't changed, so in the short-term, Google's product lineup is likely to keep going. The report says that Google had "a bunch of stuff in the works" that now probably won't see the light of day. The move comes after the group received pressure to turn Google Hardware into "a real business" from higher-ups at Google/Alphabet. It's easy to imagine that the laptops and tablets -- which are Google Hardware's most expensive products -- were selling the worst.
Verizon Says 5G Network Will Cost Extra $10 a Month
Verizon said on Tuesday that it will
charge an additional $10 a month per smartphone for subscribers who want to add 5G speeds to their devices, the first major U.S. carrier to disclose pricing for the faster cellular service. From a report:
Verizon says it'll flip the switch next month on a much-hyped, next-generation "5G" phone network. Service will start in parts of Chicago and Minneapolis. Verizon expects to have 5G in 30 cities this year. For now, few people will sign on. The offer is available only on unlimited plans, which currently start at $75 for one person or $160 for a family of four without 5G. On family plans, each 5G line would cost $10 extra. And network access will initially work with just one phone, Motorola's Moto Z3, with a special 5G attachment. Verizon will offer some promotions at first, including discounts on the phone and attachment and the first three months of 5G service free.
IBM, and Some Other Companies Did Not Inform People When Using Their Photos From Flickr To Train Facial Recognition Systems
IBM and some other firms are using at least a million of images they have gleaned from Flickr to help train a facial recognition system. Although the photos in question were shared under a Creative Commons license, many users say they never imagined their images would be used in this way. Furthermore,
the people shown in the images didn't consent to anything. From a report:
"This is the dirty little secret of AI training sets. Researchers often just grab whatever images are available in the wild," said NYU School of Law professor Jason Schultz. The latest company to enter this territory was IBM, which in January released a collection of nearly a million photos that were taken from the photo hosting site Flickr and coded to describe the subjects' appearance. IBM promoted the collection to researchers as a progressive step toward reducing bias in facial recognition. But some of the photographers whose images were included in IBM's dataset were surprised and disconcerted when NBC News told them that their photographs had been annotated with details including facial geometry and skin tone and may be used to develop facial recognition algorithms. (NBC News obtained IBM's dataset from a source after the company declined to share it, saying it could be used only by academic or corporate research groups.)
"None of the people I photographed had any idea their images were being used in this way," said Greg Peverill-Conti, a Boston-based public relations executive who has more than 700 photos in IBM's collection, known as a "training dataset." "It seems a little sketchy that IBM can use these pictures without saying anything to anybody," he said. John Smith, who oversees AI research at IBM, said that the company was committed to "protecting the privacy of individuals" and "will work with anyone who requests a URL to be removed from the dataset." Despite IBM's assurances that Flickr users can opt out of the database, NBC News discovered that it's almost impossible to get photos removed. IBM requires photographers to email links to photos they want removed, but the company has not publicly shared the list of Flickr users and photos included in the dataset, so there is no easy way of finding out whose photos are included. IBM did not respond to questions about this process.
Google Launches Android Q Beta 1
Google said today it is
rolling out the first beta version of Android Q, the newest version of its mobile operating system. The company will roll out a stable version of Android Q later this year. From a report:
The first beta includes a preview SDK for developers with system images for the Pixel, Pixel XL, Pixel 2, Pixel 2 XL, Pixel 3, Pixel 3 XL, and the official Android Emulator. This is the fourth year running that Google has released the first developer preview of the next Android version in March -- Android N (later named Android Nougat), Android O (Android Oreo), and Android P (Android Pie). For the past two years, Google did not use the Android Beta Program, which lets you get early Android builds via over-their-air updates on select devices.
That changes with Android Q -- Google is making the first preview available as a beta, not just as a developer preview. That signals that it is ready for early adopters to try, in addition to developers. As before, this preview version will be referred to as Android Q until Google picks a name starting with that letter.
Twitter Teases Hiding 'Likes' and 'Retweets' Counts, Color-Coded Replies in Biggest Set of Changes To Its Social Media Service Since it Launched in 2006
Twitter is teasing some of the biggest changes to its social media service since it first launched in 2006, aiming to make good on the company's promise to promote "healthy conversation." From a report:
The company is also introducing new features to enhance pictures and video on the app in an effort to encourage users to make more use of the cameras on their smartphones, a move that adds features similar to those found on the apps of some of its main competition: Instagram and Snapchat. "We've really intentionally tried to make the images and footage that are captured on the ground at an event look different than other images and videos that you might attach to a tweet," said Keith Coleman, Twitter's head of consumer product. On Tuesday, the company offered the public its first look at a new prototype for the Twitter app, which the company is calling "twttr" in a nod to CEO and co-founder Jack Dorsey's first tweet, that includes a variety of changes to how Twitter looks and operates, centered on a new format for conversations and color-coded replies. The prototype also removes the engagement counts showing the number of retweets or "likes" a tweet receives. This change is designed to make Twitter a little friendlier.
America's Latest Effort To Thwart the Growth of China's Huawei is Playing Out Beneath the World's Oceans
A new front has opened in the battle between the U.S. and China over control of global networks that deliver the internet.
This one is beneath the ocean.
[Editor's note: the link may be paywalled; syndicated source.] From a report:
While the U.S. wages a high-profile campaign to exclude China's Huawei from next-generation mobile networks over fears of espionage, the company is embedding itself into undersea cable networks that ferry nearly all of the world's internet data. About 380 active submarine cables -- bundles of fiber-optic lines that travel oceans on the seabed -- carry about 95% of intercontinental voice and data traffic, making them critical for the economies and national security of most countries. Current and former security officials in the U.S. and allied governments now worry that these cables are increasingly vulnerable to espionage or attack and say the involvement of Huawei potentially enhances China's capabilities.
Huawei denies any threat. The U.S. hasn't publicly provided evidence of its claims that Huawei technology poses a cybersecurity risk. Its efforts to persuade other countries to sideline the company's communication technology have been met with skepticism by some. Huawei Marine Networks, majority owned by the Chinese telecom giant, completed a 3,750-mile cable between Brazil and Cameroon in September. It recently started work on a 7,500-mile cable connecting Europe, Asia and Africa and is finishing up links across the Gulf of California in Mexico. Altogether, the company has worked on some 90 projects to build or upgrade seabed fiber-optic links, gaining fast on the three U.S., European and Japanese firms that dominate the industry. These officials say the company's knowledge of and access to undersea cables could allow China to attach devices that divert or monitor data traffic -- or, in a conflict, to sever links to entire nations.
Facebook, the world's largest social networking website, is down for many, users say. Third-party web monitoring tool DownDetector corroborates the claim, adding that more than 11,000 people have reported issues with accessing Facebook in the last 30 minutes or so.
Facebook's outage means social buttons and other Facebook functionalities that are embedded all over the web are also facing issue.
Update: Instagram appears to be down, too, for some users.
Update 2: In a statement, a Facebook spokesperson said, "We're aware that some people are currently having trouble accessing the Facebook family of apps. We're working to resolve the issue as soon as possible."
Tim Berners-Lee Talks About India's Recent Push To Data Localization, Proposed Compromise of End-to-End Encryption, and Frequent Internet Shutdowns
On the occasion of the web's 30th anniversary, its creator, Tim Berners-Lee, has given some interviews and shared his thoughts on some challenges that the web faces today. He
spoke with Medianama, an Indian outlet, on
some of the relatively unique challenges that the government over there has been pushing lately. Some of these challenges include government's push to have Silicon Valley companies store data of Indians in India itself; a nudge to WhatsApp to put an end to its encryption
(On a side note: The Australian government recently passed a law to do this exact thing); and frequent shutdowns in the nation.
On data localisation and data as a national resource :
That's one of the things that the Web Foundation has always been concerned about: the balkanisation of the Internet. If you want to balkanise it, that's a pretty darn effective way of doing it. If you say that Indian people's data can't be stored outside India, that means that when you start a social network which will be accessed by people all over the world, that means that you will have to start 152 different companies all over the world. It's a barrier to entry. Facebook can do that. Google can do that.
When an Indian company does it, and you'll end up with an Indian company that serves only Indian users. When people go abroad, they won't be able to keep track of their friends at home. The whole wonderful open web of knowledge, academic and political discussions would be divided into country groups and cultural groups, so there will be a massive loss of richness to the web.
HP Recalls More Laptops For 'Fire and Burn Hazards'
The US Product and Safety Commission just
announced HP's "battery safety"
recall of about 78,500 laptops for what the UPSC calls "fire and burn hazards." From a report:
HP initiated the recall in January 2018, and expanded it in January 2019, but the news hadn't widely circulated because of the US government shutdown -- the UPSC finally posted the news to its site on Tuesday with the explanation "NOTE: This recall expansion was previously announced independently on January 17, 2019 by the firm due to US government furlough." This is part of a continuing series of battery recalls from HP. The January 28 recall was for about 51,000 models, but 41,000 were recalled in June 2016 and 100,000 in January 2017, bringing the total for the past 2.5 years to almost a quarter of a million.
Google Quietly Adds DuckDuckGo as a Search Engine Option for Chrome Users in About 60 Markets
An anonymous reader shares a report:
In an update to the chromium engine, which underpins Google's popular Chrome browser, the search giant has quietly updated the lists of default search engines it offers per market -- expanding the choice of search product users can pick from in markets around the world. Most notably it's expanded search engine lists to include pro-privacy rivals in more than 60 markets globally. The changes, which appear to have been pushed out with the Chromium 73 stable release yesterday, come at a time when Google is facing rising privacy and antitrust scrutiny and accusations of market distorting behavior at home and abroad.
Microsoft Now Lets You Stream PC Games To an Xbox One and Use a Controller
Microsoft is now letting Xbox One owners stream their
PC games to the console and use a controller to play them. From a report:
A newly updated app, Wireless Display app, from Microsoft enables the support so you can play Steam games or other titles directly on an Xbox One. You can use a regular Xbox controller to control the remote PC, enabling game play or even the ability to use an Xbox for presentations. Microsoft's Wireless Display app uses Miracast to create a connection between a PC and the Xbox One, and you can cast to the Xbox using the winkey + P combination. There are different latency modes for gaming and watching videos from a remote PC, and the app is ideal if you want to project a stream or video onto the Xbox. You won't be able to stream protected content like Netflix, though.
Spotify Files Complaint Against Apple With the European Commission Over 30% Tax and Restrictive Rules
Spotify today filed a complaint with EU antitrust regulators against Apple, saying the iPhone maker unfairly limits rivals to its own Apple Music streaming service. Spotify CEO Daniel Ek
writes in a blog post:
In recent years, Apple has introduced rules to the App Store that purposely limit choice and stifle innovation at the expense of the user experience -- essentially acting as both a player and referee to deliberately disadvantage other app developers. After trying unsuccessfully to resolve the issues directly with Apple, we're now requesting that the EC take action to ensure fair competition. Apple operates a platform that, for over a billion people around the world, is the gateway to the internet. Apple is both the owner of the iOS platform and the App Store -- and a competitor to services like Spotify. In theory, this is fine. But in Apple's case, they continue to give themselves an unfair advantage at every turn.
To illustrate what I mean, let me share a few examples. Apple requires that Spotify and other digital services pay a 30% tax on purchases made through Apple's payment system, including upgrading from our Free to our Premium service. If we pay this tax, it would force us to artificially inflate the price of our Premium membership well above the price of Apple Music. And to keep our price competitive for our customers, that isn't something we can do. As an alternative, if we choose not to use Apple's payment system, forgoing the charge, Apple then applies a series of technical and experience-limiting restrictions on Spotify.
For example, they limit our communication with our customers -- including our outreach beyond the app. In some cases, we aren't even allowed to send emails to our customers who use Apple. Apple also routinely blocks our experience-enhancing upgrades. Over time, this has included locking Spotify and other competitors out of Apple services such as Siri, HomePod, and Apple Watch. We aren't seeking special treatment. We simply want the same treatment as numerous other apps on the App Store, like Uber or Deliveroo, who aren't subject to the Apple tax and therefore don't have the same restrictions.
Alphabet's AI-Powered Chrome Extension Hides Toxic Comments
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Engadget:
Alphabet offshoot Jigsaw is launching a Chrome extension designed to help moderate toxic comments on social media. The new open-source tool, dubbed "Tune," builds on the machine learning smarts introduced in Jigsaw's "Perspective" tech to help sites like Facebook and Twitter set the "volume" of abusive comments. Using "filter mix" controls, users can either turn toxic comments off altogether (what's known as "zen mode") or show selective types of posts containing attacks, insults, or profanity. Tune also works with Reddit, YouTube and Disqus. Jigsaw admits that Tune is still an experiment, meaning it may not spot all forms of toxicity or could hide non-offensive comments. "We're constantly working to improve the underlying technology, and users can easily give feedback right in the tool to help us improve our algorithms," C.J. Adams, Jigsaw product manager, wrote in a blog post.
Scientists Reawaken Cells From a 28,000-Year-Old Mammoth
Cells from a woolly mammoth that died more than 28,000 years ago
have been partially reactivated inside of mouse egg cells, according to a study
published Monday in Scientific Reports. "The achievement shows that biological activity can be induced in the cells of long-dead creatures, but that does not mean that scientists will be resurrecting extinct animals like mammoths any time soon," reports Motherboard. From the report:
A team led by Kazuo Yamagata, a biologist at Kindai University in Japan, extracted cells from the remains of "Yuka," a young female mammoth discovered in 2010 on the coast of the Dmitry Laptev Strait in the Russian Far East. Yuka was entombed in permafrost, a frozen ground layer that can often keep the skin, fur, brains, and other softer tissues of dead animals intact. Because Yuka is in particularly great condition, Yamagata's team was able to extract 88 nucleus-like structures from her preserved muscle tissues. The mammoth cells were implanted into mouse oocytes, which are ovarian cells involved in embryonic development. The researchers also implanted elephant cells into mouse eggs to provide a control sample.
Once the cell nuclei were incubated, they seemed to reawaken -- but only slightly. The cells did not divide, but completed some steps that precede cell division. For instance, the mammoth nuclei performed a process called "spindle assembly," which ensures that chromosomes are correctly attached to microscopic spindle structures before a parent cell breaks into two daughter cells. The fact that Yuka's cells were able to spring back into partial action is both an exciting and challenging development for scientists interested in cloning extinct animals. On one hand, some degree of cellular reactivation is clearly possible. But Yuka is also an exceptionally pristine specimen, and even her cells were not able to complete cell division -- a major hurdle that scientists must clear to accomplish de-extinction.
Radioactive Particles From Huge Solar Storm Found In Greenland
Traces of an enormous solar storm that battered the atmosphere and showered Earth in radioactive particles more than 2,500 years ago
have been discovered under the Greenland ice sheet. The Guardian reports:
Scientists studying ice nearly half a kilometer beneath the surface found a band of radioactive elements unleashed by a storm that struck the planet in 660BC. It was at least 10 times more powerful than any recorded by instruments set up to detect such events in the past 70 years, and as strong as the most intense known solar storm, which hit Earth in AD775. The discovery means that the worst-case scenarios used in risk planning for serious space weather events underestimate how powerful solar storms can be.
Raimund Muscheler, a professor of quaternary sciences at Lund University in Sweden, and his team analyzed two ice cores drilled from the Greenland ice sheet and found that both contained spikes in isotopes of beryllium and chlorine that date back to about 660BC. The material appears to be the radioactive remnants of a solar storm that battered the atmosphere. The scientists calculate that the storm sent at least 10 billion protons per square centimeter into the atmosphere. "A solar proton event of such magnitude occurring in modern times could result in severe disruption of satellite-based technologies, high frequency radio communication and space-based navigation systems," they write in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.